You raised me, sheltered me, loved me when I wasn’t quite sure who I was or where I was going.
I packed my little car with everything that mattered to me—pictures for the walls, books for the shelves, clothes and shoes and notebooks I felt would define the woman I would become. And I put on my biggest smile and opened the door.
My room was tiny, the hall was cluttered, and the faces and voices of the surrounding dorm rooms were terrifying, but I trusted that you would keep me safe. That 500 miles away from home was exactly where I was meant to be. And so I said goodbye to the life I’d always known and stepped bravely into your embrace.
You gave me confidence. You gave me friends. You gave me four walls to make my own and memories that filled the spaces around me.
You gave me love. You gave me lessons. You gave me boys that would teach me how to be strong and friends that would show me that you can call more than one place home.
As I grew, you gave me classes to dominate, rooms to fill with my words, and jobs to claim. I scuffed the dirt under my cleats and called it my own. I found a patch of sunny grass between buildings and created a hiding place. I wandered along backroads and discovered my own paths.
You gave me people I could love, people I could trust, people I could share my dreams with.
Your small buildings gave me security, gave me strength. I learned how to speak confidently, how to make a difference, how to grab opportunities and carry them through.
I became a woman I was proud of. And it’s because you carried me, until I learned to carry myself.
So thank you, tiny college in small-town Iowa. Thank you for being the change I wanted, the push I needed, the friends and the love and the security and the challenge that allowed me to grow, to believe in myself, to walk across a graduation stage with a bittersweet taste in my mouth—pride and fear, the end and the beginning.
Moving on, letting go.
Thank you for being a place that was mine, spaces and rooms and buildings and atmospheres that felt familiar and safe. Thank you, most of all for being a place I was thankful to return to. Thank you, throughout four years of my life, for being home.